The Vltava Riverside is one Prague’s most captivating areas, especially on a sunny day. While walking along the riverbank, I spotted Museum Kampa and decided to stop to view the famous gallery’s latest exhibition. Entitled Kupka Gutfreund Masters of World Art, the permanent exhibition features iconic Czech masters – abstract painter František Kupka and renowned Cubist sculptor Otto Gutfreund.
Kupka and Gutfreund are two of the Czech Republic’s most important artists. Both were prominent during the development of avant-garde art in Europe. Viewing their work was educational.
The complicated lives of both artists are reflected in art created during various phases of their careers. Although I touch briefly on their life history in this post, it’s too complex to cover in a travel blog. Those interested can find information online. I was enthralled by both artists and have included many attachments illustrating their brilliant work.
Here I go, blog posting again… I felt the need to write about these artists for future reference, as I would surely forget most of the captivating detail. Thankfully, long-term travel provides the opportunity to explore AND reflect! Exploring Prague will keep me busy! There’s more history, art, and music here than I can comprehend – “the dull brain perplexes and retards”…
Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation
This selection of Kupka’s works is considered “one of the world’s most important representatives of 20th century art“. It forms a “basic pillar of the collection of the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation” – creator and benefactor of Museum Kampa. Established in 1999, the Mládek Foundation “promotes fine art and presents its modern collection that began in the 1950s”.
František Kupka 1871–1957
The František Kupka Exhibition presents seven chronological chapters of his work. “Kupka was a pioneer of abstract art and one of the first completely non-representational artists.” The “viewer can observe the stages of his focused analysis of individual painting means – line, area, light values, and color”. Kupka’s development as an artist is reflected in “his concept of color areas, which allowed him to develop a different form of image area building”. More than seven dozen of Kupka’s works are on display at Museum Kampa.
“Many of Kupka’s important paintings and works on paper play between abstraction and portraiture. He would soon tip the balance toward total abstraction, becoming one of the earliest artists to do so.” MoMA
Kupka attended Academies of Fine Arts in Prague and Vienna and moved to Paris in 1896. Inspired by Neo-Impressionism and Fauvist painting exhibitions, he began exploring optical theory, intense color, and light and space effects. During this period of experimentation, Kupka supported himself as a caricaturist for satirical magazines.
In 1912, Kupka’s “landmark painting Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colors, was exhibited in Paris at Le Salon d’Automne. It was one of the “first abstract paintings shown in Paris”. His circular studies “demonstrate an intense, iterative experimentation with the motif“. Kupka’s abstract paintings from 1912–13 “push the boundaries of nonrepresentational art”.
“As a young teen, Kupka worked for a saddle maker who introduced him to spiritualism and ideas about the cosmos, concepts he later used in early drawings and paintings that explored the relationship between religion, color, and geometry.” MoMA
Otto Gutfreund 1889–1927
The last chapter of the Kupka Gutfreund Exhibition contains 17 sculptures, drawings, and designs by renowned sculptor Otto Gutfreund. A total of 103 Gutfreund works are documented. His sculptures from 1911 to 1923 represent “Czech Expressionism, Cubism, and a new visual style for the First Czech Republic“.
Gutfreund was born in Dvůr Králové nad Labem, one of five children in a Czech Jewish family. His father owned a small yarn dyeing plant. With the help of his clever wife, a seamstress, he later built the first modern round brickyard in the region. Gutfreund “family cohesion and a love of art, especially literature and music, helped them overcome difficulties”.